FACT CHECK: Did Gandhi Say, ‘You Must Be The Change You Wish To See In The World’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook credits Indian social activist Mahatma Gandhi with saying, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Verdict: False

While the spirit of the saying appears to align with Gandhi’s philosophy, it has not been found in any of his written works or speeches.

Fact Check:

Gandhi, a lawyer and politician, was a central figure in India’s independence movement from British rule. His teachings, writings and speeches have influenced other social activists, including American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

However, there is no evidence that Gandhi ever actually said or wrote the expression attributed to him in the Facebook post. The Daily Caller News Foundation searched for it in the Gandhi Heritage Portal‘s 100 volumes of original documents related to the social activist but found no matches.

“I strongly suspect that this quotation … is not a direct quote from Gandhi’s own speeches or writings,” said Johannes Bakker, a retired University of Guelph professor and Gandhi expert, in an email to the DCNF.

Bakker noted that the “sentiment is Gandhian,” pointing to a thematically related expression written by Gandhi in a 1913 work. (RELATED: Did Gandhi Say, ‘First They Ignore You, Then They Laugh At You, Then They Fight You, Then You Win’?)

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change,” wrote Gandhi. “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

The website Quote Investigator found the earliest close match to the saying in educator Arleen Lorrance’s chapter of the 1974 book “Developing Priorities and a Style: Selected Readings in Education for Teachers and Parents.” In the chapter, she wrote, “One way to start a preventative program is to be the change you want to see happen.”

The quote has been attributed to Gandhi since at least 1987, according to Quote Investigator.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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